Return To Rasa Island & A Visit to the Philippine Cockatoo Monitoring Project

After a brief sunset visit to see the Philippine Cockatoos roost for the night, now we would have the chance to see them wake up and fly to the mainland. Wake up call was bright and early-4:30am so we would reach the island by dawn. Ina opted to sleep a bit more so it was just Ivy and me this time. Benito was waiting right on time and we were able to get a bit closer to the roosting site. Although it is possible to land at certain times of the year, they prefer not to as it disturbs nesting and breeding Katala. We arrived around 5:30am, set anchor and waited for the cockatoos to wake up. There were signs of stirring about half an hour later as dawn broke and the sky grew lighter. They were pretty lazy and took their time but gradually more and more Katala would wake up, fly between the trees looking for their friends and of course making noise!

Wakey wakey Cockatoos!

They flew back to the mainland in small flocks.  We followed in the boat.

Back on the mainland we took a tuktuk to the feeding site.

I sat in the gently rocking boat trying to get photos and video as they flew around the roosting site.  They didn’t linger, hungry cockatoos want to eat so they flew off to foraging grounds on the island and mainland.  As we drove back, I could see several pairs heading to Narra.

We landed ashore and got the tuk-tuk to a small road in the middle of the village surrounded by family homes.  This was where I got to see the Katala much closer and get better photos.

A good shot of the red vents.

This is the Katala Foundation’s monitoring project where the locals keep track of the cockatoos.  There were around 5 or 6 flying between trees in people’s backyards. Ivy said that the people don’t mind if tourists with the Katala Foundation enter their backyards to see the birds. The Philippine cockatoo feeds on seeds, and, to an extent, on fruits, flowers, buds and nectar. The species is very adaptable and even forages on crops, particularly rice in a half-ripe stage and corn. Therefore the cockatoo was formerly regarded as a pest. Thanks to the Katala Foundation, the locals now treasure their endemic bird and even assist in monitoring the preferred feeding trees and keep logs of Katala visits. We enjoyed watching them for about an hour, then they flew off. Ivy showed me the seed pods they eat and some of the log books.

Malunga seed pods left over from the cockatoos.

One of the most important aspect of any bird conservation program is to get the local people involved and the Katala Foundation is one of several conservation programs sponsored by Loro Parque Fundacion . They organize schools, festivals, field trips and build community pride in the Katala. Annual festivals feature people dressing in Katala costumes! For more information on the Katala Foundation, booking an eco-tour or learning more about these rare cockatoos, please visit their website.

My very shaky video of our trip, it does get better towards the end with some close-ups.  Back then, I think I had a Canon450D with 55-250mm lens.

After our visit, we caught a minibus back to Puerto Princesa.  Since we were larger than the locals, we paid for 3 seats to be more comfortable, it was still really cheap.

Night Parrot Conservation On ABC (Aussie TV)

Aussies, set your recording for ABC 12 noon today!  They are showing an excellent documentary on how normal Aussie farmers are helping the conservation of the highly endangered Night Parrot.

Non-Aussies might want to try a VPN to watch online.

The next episode of ABC-Landline will include a segment on the night parrot.  You can find some details on the Landline web page as well as a Landline article on the topic of Qld farmers working for the conservation effort.

You can view the program in several ways:

  • Sunday 9th April at midday – on ABC-2 and HD

  • Monday 10th April at 12:01 am (just after midnight Sunday)- on ABC news 24

  • Monday 10th April at 10:00 am – on ABC-2 and HD

  • on the internet using ABC iView (after the show is first broadcast)

Rio Abajo Forest, Puerto Rico

Rio Abajo Forest is one of the Caribbean’s top birding hotspots due to the Puerto Rican Parrots.  It’s a huge forest with many hiking trails and if you had the time and energy you could spend a day or two here.  But I was not only limited by time, I was exhausted and running on empty due to lack of sleep, so all I wanted to so was find the parrots.  I had been in contact with Ricardo Valentin prior to our visit and he was going to show us around the aviary and breeding project but when we arrived at the gate, we couldn’t find anyone around.

Road leading to Rio Abajo.

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First gate, we just went through as we had an appointment.  There was no one around anyway.DSCN4417

This is the 2nd gate which is outside the breeding project.  We parked here and waited for someone to approach us.  We were early so thought maybe they didn’t show up until 9am which was when our appointment was.DSCN4409 DSCN4412

I tried the call box but no one answered.

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Signage about the aviary.DSCN4410 DSCN4411

A jogger did eventually show up and said his brother worked there.  He called out to his brother but no one answered so he left.  We waited while the trees cam alive around us.DSCN4413

They blend in quite well but this time (as opposed to other islands we had visited) we were close enough to see the parrots frolicking in the trees.IMG_8352 IMG_8355 IMG_8356 IMG_8362 IMG_8369 IMG_8377 IMG_8380 IMG_8382 IMG_8386 IMG_8392 IMG_8394 IMG_8402 IMG_8405 IMG_8406 IMG_8413 IMG_8415 IMG_8420 IMG_8457 IMG_8468

We actually had a good quality visit with the parrots as they hung around the area for awhile foraging in the branches.  They took off around 10am.  No humans ever showed up so at that point, we were starving and left to go forage for ourselves.  I later found out via email that Mr Valentin had taken ill and didn’t work that day.

Prince Harry Meets Some St Vincent Parrots

Prince Harry is well known for his dedication to conservation and has visited many countries to learn about the wildlife.  When he visited St Vincent last year, he went to the botanical gardens and met some St Vincent Parrots which caught his attention.  He also did a “short walk” along the Vermont Trail but it doesn’t say if he saw the parrots at the look out or not.  My dream would be to get Prince Harry on board more bird conservation issues along with all his followers!

#PrinceHarry

#conservation

#StVincentParrot

Support Conservation Through These Charities

There are many ways to support conservation efforts around the world and help preserve the habitats the birds we love inhabit.  One way, which is heavily featured throughout this blog is ecotourism and supporting the local communities directly so they are motivated to keep their wild birds and animals wild and free.  Another way is to donate to registered charities who work with the local communities.

So please help us see more of THIS……………….

ara-project

……………and NONE of THIS!wpt-2015-appeal

In December & January, many of these charities have a matching donation program in which your donation is matched by a sponsor.  I will note these below.  Please take the time to read through these pages and find one or more conservation charities to support.

WORLD PARROT TRUST -Matching through 31 Jan 2017

ARA PROJECT – First $5000 matched

BUSH HERITAGE AUSTRALIA

CORNELL LAB OF ORNITHOLOGY – 1st $150,000 matched

ONE EARTH CONSERVATION

RAINFOREST TRUST SANTA MARTA PARAKEET– Matched 1:1 until ?

BIRDLIFE AUSTRALIA

Napo Wildlife Center’s Canopy Tower

Along with the parrot clay licks, a visit to the canopy tower will be a highlight of your trip to Napo Wildlife Center.  Our visit which was pretty typical involved the usual 5am wake up call (I set my alarm for 4am otherwise I couldn’t eat breakfast so early), a breakfast buffet, then off in the paddleboat across the lake.  From there it’s about half a kilometer to the canopy tower through thick rainforest habitat.  It’s really exciting to get our first glimpse of the tower!

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It’s a long slog up the stairs to the top.DSCN1790 DSCN1796

The view is awesome!  We were lucky our guide had a scope as many of the birds were at quite a distance.  I struggled to find them with my own camera even after the guide had them in the scope.DSCN1733 DSCN1714

Let’s start with some mammals, here’s a Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth who was there for our whole visit.DSCN1726 DSCN1721a DSCN1756a DSCN1858a

Howler MonkeysIMG_3928a DSCN1735a

Plumbeous PigeonDSCN1718a

Slate-coloured HawkDSCN1731a

White-thoated ToucanDSCN1737a DSCN1739a IMG_3942a

Many-banded AracariIMG_4085a DSCN1748a DSCN1752a DSCN1833a DSCN1835a DSCN1837a

Russet-backed OropendulaDSCN1803a

Crimson-crested WoodpeckerDSCN1767a IMG_3975a

Those tiny specs are Cobalt-winged Parakeets.  I told them to come to the clay lick tomorrow and bring all their friends!IMG_3967

Scarlet MacawsIMG_3995a IMG_4000a

White HawkIMG_4055a IMG_3945 IMG_3943a DSCN1820

Orange-winged Amazon ParrotsIMG_3947a

Look closely, what could that tiny blue speck be?

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Maybe a Plum-throated Cotinga?

 

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Or a Spangled Cotinga?DSCN1802

I called this the “Cotinga Tree” because we had both Spangled Cotingas and Plum-throated Cotingas showing up there.IMG_4025a IMG_3992a IMG_4070a IMG_4066a IMG_4064a IMG_4060a DSCN1809a DSCN1804a DSCN1843 DSCN1843a

This White Hawk was pretty far away and a good spot by our guide.DSCN1846a

This Squirrel Cuckoo was pretty close.IMG_4088a

And this shows why you need a really good guide with a really good scope.  Do you see anything in this unedited photo?IMG_4033

What if I zoom in and crop out the cute little Black-headed Parrot (Caique)?IMG_4033a IMG_4040a IMG_4050a DSCN1840 DSCN1840a DSCN1868

I practically had to be dragged off the tower kicking and screaming as the birding was so awesome!  Back down on the ground, we had a leisurely walk back to the paddleboat.DSCN1877

Tiny frogDSCN1878

Cool looking tree, forgot what it’s called.IMG_4094

Poor tired husband!IMG_4104

This little Wire-tailed Manakin led me on a merry chase as he wouldn’t stand still for a photo!IMG_4101a DSCN1875 DSCN1876a

Hah, gotcha!  And with that, we went back to the lodge for lunch!

COMPLETE BIRD CHECKLIST

The Hummingbird Effect

Whenever we visit the Americas, hummingbirds are always a highlight.  They dazzle us with their beauty and brilliance and I could spend hours sitting on lodge verandahs watching them dart to and fro.  A world without hummingbirds would be sad indeed.  The American Bird Conservancy is trying to save their habitat so any help you can give would be appreciated.  And remember that hummingbirds share their habitat with many other birds and mammals so save one, you save them all!

For now, enjoy this compilation clip of some of the most beautiful hummingbirds in the world.

 

Lost Birds – Can You Help Find Them?

No, I am not talking about pet birds that have flown off, I am talking about entire species that haven’t been seen in the wild in many years.

ABC is mobilizing resources and partners to conduct searches for some of South America’s lost birds. We’re starting with three: the Tachira Antpitta, the Turquoise-throated Puffleg, and the Kinglet Calyptura.

It could be that these species still survive but are simply in locations not frequented by birders because of remote locations or difficult terrain.

I was recently in Ecuador but not in the area where the Turquoise-throated Puffleg was last seen around 70 years ago.  They are quite beautiful, the drawing below comes from Wikipedia.

turqpuff

The search is on for these unseen species and several others.  Occasionally bird species do resurface when researchers or even normal birders stumble upon them.  Wouldn’t it be great to be the one who proves a species is still alive?

Read more…..

Conserving Ecuador’s Great Green Macaw

A few years ago, I saw the Great-Green Macaw in Costa Rica and was aware that a smaller subspecies existed in Ecuador.  I was hoping to see them at Cerro Blanco but this didn’t happen, they are just too rare and the populations are very fragmented.  The Ecuadorians are very keen to protect this bird and proudly display their image when entering the country at Guayaquil airport.

DSCN0319 They are the emblem of Bosque Cerro Blanco shown on the logo and in artwork around the park.  Conservation efforts have been increased to save the bird in both Cerro Blanco and Rio Canande. DSCN0337 DSCN0366

Here are some videos showing conservation efforts in Cerro Blanco (Spanish).